Fri, 12 July 2024

Newsletter sign-up

Subscribe now
The House Live All
How clean energy will help deliver UK economic growth Partner content
By Social Market Foundation (SMF)
Pensions are in desperate need of reform - this is how the next government should do it Partner content
Why the future of business is mutually beneficial Partner content
Britain’s Chemical Industry Fuelling UK Growth: A Plan for the Next Government Partner content
Press releases

How can the UK turbocharge its ambition to be a science and technology superpower?

Scott White, Executive Director, Strategic Initiatives

Scott White, Executive Director, Strategic Initiatives | Pragmatic Semiconductor

4 min read Partner content

Pragmatic is a UK based manufacturer of innovative flexible semiconductors. As the only manufacturer globally of flexible chips, Pragmatic's technology provides the opportunity for the UK to become a world leader in a critical sector. Today, the company publishes a report into "How can the UK turbocharge its ambition to be a science and technology superpower?"

In 2021, former Prime Minister Boris Johnson set out his ambition for the UK to become a science and technology superpower by 2030.

The current Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, reinforced this goal with the creation of the new Department for Science, Innovation and Technology, and the publication of the UK Science and Technology Framework in March 2023.

But there are clear hurdles that must be overcome to realise this ambition.

That is why Pragmatic brought together policy makers, business leaders, industry bodies and think tanks from across the science and technology sector at a parliamentary roundtable, to discuss how we can turn the Government’s ambition into a reality.

We also undertook research amongst science and technology business leaders to understand their views on the support they would like to see, and the challenges they face.

Those discussions and our research have formed the basis for a new report, “How can the UK turbocharge its ambition to be a science and technology superpower?”, launched this week.

Three clear messages emerged.

Creating a level playing field

To put it bluntly, if innovative science and technology companies receive greater incentives to build their business abroad, then they will leave the UK. The Government should consider how best to create a level playing field for UK-based science and technology companies in comparison with other global markets.

This could include, but is not limited to, targeted incentives such as support for capital investment – in particular in emerging technologies where securing funding for capital expenditure is a particular challenge.

Measures such as full expensing of capital expenditure announced in the Budget are to be welcomed, but it will be crucial that this is followed by more targeted support for key sectors, including semiconductors, and that any support is accessible and beneficial to innovative SMEs as well as mature businesses.

Driving investment

Increasing the flow of investment into our technology companies, particularly from domestic sources, will also be key. The domestic point is crucial – if our most innovative science and technology companies are predominately owned by overseas sources of investment, there is a significantly increased risk that they eventually choose to base themselves abroad, or list on foreign stock markets.

A key way to drive domestic investment is to increase the technology expertise and understanding of investors, and in doing so cultivate a more dynamic approach to science and technology investment.

Our research revealed that 61% of science and technology business leaders believe that UK investors are too risk-averse when it comes to investing in scale-up science and technology businesses. 55% believe that investors do not have a good understanding of the investment opportunities offered by early-stage and scale-up companies.

The Government should convene an expert advisory panel to identify and implement steps to cultivate a more confident approach from British investors to investing in innovative UK science and technology businesses.

Alongside this, and working with the existing Catapult network and other expert bodies, the Government should examine how a platform could be created that better marries tech investors and technology experts to guide investment decisions.

Better use of public procurement

Finally, the roundtable discussion highlighted the need for a more comprehensive and structured approach to using public procurement as a tool to support UK based science and technology companies, particularly those in the scale-up stage.

The Government has a role to play not just as a regulator but also as a customer, supporting home-grown revenue opportunities. Increasing innovation in public procurement is part of the Science and Technology Framework and it’s vital the Government now lays out exactly how it will leverage its significant buying power, especially to invest in the most innovative products like Pragmatic’s flexible chips, that will allow us to lead the world in critical technologies.

The Government should commission a cross-departmental review of how it uses public sector procurement as a tool to support cutting-edge science and technology companies. This should include assessing how departmental guidelines for procurement decisions can ensure support for this crucial sector.

The opportunity for the UK

The UK has an opportunity to capitalise on its longstanding tradition of being a science and technology trailblazer. Our aim is that this report, and its recommendations, help the UK to turn its ambition to become a science and technology superpower into a reality.

PoliticsHome Newsletters

Get the inside track on what MPs and Peers are talking about. Sign up to The House's morning email for the latest insight and reaction from Parliamentarians, policy-makers and organisations.

Read the most recent article written by Scott White, Executive Director, Strategic Initiatives - Embedding sustainability: How homegrown semiconductor technology can help realise the UK’s sustainability goals


Engineering a Better World

The Engineering a Better World podcast series from The House magazine and the IET is back for series two! New host Jonn Elledge discusses with parliamentarians and industry experts how technology and engineering can provide policy solutions to our changing world.

NEW SERIES - Listen now